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6 posts from June 2011

June 19, 2011

Calling all playwrights

Susi Westfall City Theatre's popular Summer Shorts festival serves grown-up theater lovers (through Shorts and headliner Jai Rodrigruez's late-night show Dirty Little Secrets) and family audiences (through the Lisa Loeb-Marco Ramirez musical Camp Kappawanna).  This year's festival is reaching out in another direction with an information- and entertainment-filled literary conference, CityWrights.

The gathering, which begins with registration and a welcome party Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Miami's Epic Hotel, offers two days of panels, workshops and performances on Friday and Saturday, with a wrap-up Sunday brunch June 26 celebrating the playwrights and company of Summer Shorts, which winds up its run at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts that day, then moves for an additional week's run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Playwright Susan "Susi" Westfall, City Theatre's literary manager and a co-founder of the company, dreamed up the literary conference and has filled it with impressive names, enticing (and useful) panels and an exciting bonus:  a free performance-lecture by Obie Award-winning playwright Lisa Kron (the author of 2.5 Minute Ride, Well and other works).

Lisa KronKron, who is participating in CityWrights thanks in part to the Dramatist Guild Fund's Traveling Masters Program, will lead a workshop for 10 young South Florida playwrights.   She'll also give a free, open-to-all lecture and performance titled What Will Happen Next? at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Peacock Room at the Arsht, 1300 Biscayne Blvd.  City Theatre describes her performance this way:  "One life in the theater and the search for dramatic action.  In this entertaining and enlightening mix of conversation and performance, Lisa Kron shares stories spanning the journey from her start improvising funny anecdotes in scrappy East Village clubs in the '80s, through the thrill of debuting her play Well on Broadway.  Along the way she shares what she has learned about the nature of dramatic action -- why plays are so hard to do well -- and why we keep trying."  (Reservations, required for Kron's performance, can be made by calling 305-75509401, ext. 10.)

After Kron's performance on Saturday, City Theatre will honor four of this year's Shorts playwrights in attendance (Israel Horovitz, Bara Swain, Garth Wingfield and Jon Kern), then comes a special 10 p.m. performance of Summer Shorts (ticket purchase required).

Participants in CityWrights include playwrights Horovitz, Gary Garrison and Andie Arthur, intellectual property attorney David H. Faux, editor Larry Harbison and literary agent Susan Schulman.

Because City Theatre wants the gathering to enrich the work of both out-of-town participants and South Florida writers, the company is offering a special rate to locals for Friday and Saturday events:  $30 for one day, $50 for both.  For information on CityWrights, call 305-755-9401, ext. 10, or email citywrights@citytheatre.com.

 (Photos of Susi Westfall, top, and Lisa Kron)




June 10, 2011

'Girls' play and teach

GirlPlay2011-front-edit-1webThe Women's Theatre Project is planning its third edition of 'Girl Play,' a three-day festival of staged readings of short plays with lesbian themes, for June 24-26.

But first the company, in collaboration with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center at the Pride Center at Equality Park, is presenting two free workshops this weekend featuring award-winning playwright Carolyn Gage.

Tonight at 7:30, Gage delivers a lecture and performance workshop on lesbian culture.  Winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award in drama, Gage will invite audience members of all abilities, genders and orientations to act out scenarios from lesbian history and culture.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., she will use 30 minutes of scenes from her play Ugly Ducklings to deliver an anti-bullying message, exploring harassment and homophobic policies at a girls' summer camp.  Gage and others will also have a panel discussion on the issue.

'Girl Play,' three different programs of short plays, happens at 6:30 p.m. June 24-25, 2 p.m. June 26.  Admission to those readings is $15 for each program.

All events take place at the Pride Center, 2040 N. Dixie Hwy., Wilton Manors.  For info, call 954-462-2334 or visit the Women's Theatre Project's web site.


June 08, 2011

A dramatic shocker from Florida Stage

Play04 NEWPLAYS TROP RDE If you had told me last week that I would begin this one by writing about the end of Florida Stage, I would have thought you'd been overindulging in the real version of what the Hair cast pretends to smoke in Act Two. 

But no, this particular nightmare is real.  It is, of course, most painful for artistic director LouisTyrrell, managing director Nancy Barnett and the nearly 30 others on the company's staff.  Twenty-four years after Tyrrell got Florida Stage going, all those theater pros are suddenly out of work in a time when joblessness is way too common  -- though few would argue that a career in theater guarantees security and stability.

But the abrupt closing of one of South Florida's finest companies, a theater with a well-deserved national reputation for developing new plays, is a loss for so many others too.

Theater lovers, those people for whom plays and musicals are created, have lost one of the region's most adventurous companies.  Subscribers who had no reason not to sign up for a 2011-2012 season that will never be have now lost their good-faith money, and that certainly does nothing to foster trust among folks thinking about buying a season's worth of tickets to another theater.

The long list of playwrights whose work came to life at Florida Stage -- a list that includes Michele Lowe, Israel Horovitz, Deborah Zoe Laufer, William Mastrosimone, Michael McKeever, Thomas Gibbons, Christopher McGovern, Michael Hollinger, Christopher Demos-Brown, Carter W. Lewis, Steven Dietz, Nilo Cruz, David Wiltse (and so, so many more) -- now has one less place devoted to exploring, developing and impressively staging the products of their imaginations.

Plenty of out-of-town actors, directors and designers worked at Florida Stage (and by "out-of-town," I mean people who don't live in South Florida), but so did numerous artists who choose to make their careers here.  Working at Florida Stage was a sought-after gig and, more often than not, a professionally fulfilling one.  Creating a role in a brand-new play is a thrill.  So is working at a company with high artistic standards.  With Florida Stage gone, there's one less "home" for South Florida artists, one less place to help them cobble together a living doing what they love.

And yes, for those of us who spend our nights watching plays then analyzing them for readers, losing a company that has made so many of those nights interesting or wonderful or thought-provoking just plain hurts.  Oh, there were plenty of times that I drove north to Manalapan or, in the past year, West Palm Beach for a Florida Stage show and drove home with the word "why" tumbling around in my brain.  Why that show? Why that staging? Why a particular actor?  But actually, even when I was less than crazy about a Florida Stage play, I could nearly always figure out why Tyrrell chose the script.  Something about the writer's voice.  Or the ideas in the script.  Or the creative passion it stirred in him.

Having followed Florida Stage's story for nearly all of its 24 seasons, I hate the way that such an artistically impressive, risk-taking, important company is now in the process of vanishing, its last act bankruptcy.  I understand that some of the folks who tried to write a different ending believed that going public with the company's financial problems -- the $1.5 million in debt that finally sank Florida Stage -- would hurt attempts to find donors and sell tickets. That "logic" seems counterproductive.  If an award-winning, widely respected theater company is in trouble, ask for help.

Perhaps, in these hard times, nothing would have come from a "save our theater" campaign.  But perhaps Florida Stage could have been saved and bankruptcy avoided. Anyone who treasures the artistic, intellectual and emotional riches that great theater brings is poorer for the loss of one of the region's finest companies. 

(Photo of Lou Tyrrell and Nan Barnett by Bob Eighmie)  




June 03, 2011

Free theater

Looking for something interesting to do, arts-wise, tonight or tomorrow? How about checking out a free production of Stephen Belber's Tape, a play about the reunion of three high school friends and the revisiting of a hot love triangle.

Students from the University of Miami and Florida International University are banding together to get the show on in a small 30-seat venue, the House Next Door Thheatre, 2830 SW 37th Ct., Miami.  Performances are tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m.  The show is free, with on-site parking, but the students are selling refreshments and accepting donations to help defray costs.

Want info? E-mail producer Mauricio Abascal at MauryAbascal@gmail.com, or call him at 305-905-6712.


June 02, 2011

Hot plays in cool surroundings

Andie Arthur How's this for a deal?  Spend Sunday at the beautiful Deering Estate at Cutler in Palmetto Bay and be among the first to hear readings of three new plays -- for free.  Sounds grand to me.

The Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs has a Playwright Development Program in which selected writers work with a master playwright to develop new scripts.  At Sunday's event, scripts that Christopher Demos-Brown, Andie Arthur and Headshot.2 Michael Yawney have been developing under the guidance of playwright Kenny Finkle will get a public reading so that the authors get a sense of what works, what doesn't and what might make the plays even better.

Demos-Brown's piece, Wrongful Death, is about a jaded personal injury lawyer who "fights for the case of her life in a play that examines the weird ways the American civil justice system values human life."  Arthur's Outcasts of Eden is described this way:  "In 1637, Mary Dyer has left the only home she has ever known to come to a New Eden in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where she befriends and follows outlaw preacher Anne Hutchinson.  As Hutchinson's preaching tears the colony apart, will Mary follow her heart or her community?"  Yawney's It Feels Good is about an underaged guy who learns at a club about the difference between feeling good and being good.

_V8L0088_3 Wrongful Death gets read at 11 a.m., Outcasts of Eden at 2 p.m. and It Feels Good at 5 p.m. The Deering Estate is at 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Palmetto Bay.  For information, call 305-235-1668, ext. 233, or visit the Deering web site.

(Pictured from top: Andie Arthur, Christopher Demos-Brown, Michael Yawney)

June 01, 2011

Mosaic picks three

Plantation's Mosaic Theatre will present five shows during its 2011-2012 season, and now we know what three of them will be.

IMG_AP680114011.jpg_1_1_9M24VSE5Artistic director Richard Jay Simon has chosen two plays based on real-life legends and a third by hot playwright Adam Rapp.  Eric Simonson's Lombardi, about legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, has just closed on Broadway.  It is set in 1965 and focuses on a young journalist who comes to live with the coach and his family in order to write a story.

Jeffrey Hatcher's Ten Chimneys, about husband-wife acting legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne and a young Uta Hagen, is also on the bill.  The play is set in 1935 at the Lunts' Wisconsin estate, where the two are preparing for a production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.

Simon has also chosen Rapp's The Edge of Our Bodies, a Humana Festival hit about a 16-year-old prep school girl traveling to New York to spring a big surprise on her boyfriend.  Two more titles are still in negotiation, and order of the plays won't be determined until all the shows are in place.

A flexible subscription gets five vouchers to use any way the buyer wishes.  Prices are $167 for adults, $145 for seniors, $64 for students.  Anyone who purchases a subscription by Friday, June 3, gets one free ticket to Mosaic's new production of Sam Shepard's Ages of the Moon, which opens this weekend and runs through June 26.

Mosaic performs in the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Bldg. 3000, Plantation.  For info, call 954-577-8243 or visit Mosaic's web site.